Irritated by her inquisition before the Home Affairs Select Committee last week, Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes was even more muddled when she was forced to give a Commons statement on the legal status of EU nationals – and the checks that employers will have to carry out.
I’m sorry, but she had not got a clue. In response to Justine Greening, the former Education Secretary, she promised “a reasonable and sensible transition period”. To Brexiteer-in-chief Jacob Rees-Mogg, she pledged that “we will end free movement”. To Hilary Benn, chair of the Brexit select committee, she replied that “we will in due course set out the future immigration system, which will enable there to be further clarity”.
The Minister left MPs even more bemused when Liz Kendall, a very moderate Labour backbencher, asked: “How will free movement end at the end of March if EU citizens, including people arriving here after March, do not have to do anything different, other than produce their EU passport as they do now?”
The reply? “We will be bringing forward the Parliamentary timetable for the Immigration Bill shortly, and further details will be set out in due course,” said Ms Nokes.
It got no better when Tory backbencher Peter Bone asked: “If there is no deal, what will happen on March 30, 2019, when free movement will have ended, if an EU citizen presents himself at our borders?”
Her reply? “It is an important principle, as has been set out repeatedly, that we wish to be an outward-looking trading nation post-Brexit.”
For the benefit of the discourteous Ms Nokes, there are just over four months to go until Brexit – and EU citizens here, and employers trying to recruit staff, deserve better than her policy mess when the deeply-moving tributes to the First World War fallen have shown a desire for Britain’s future relations with Europe to be peaceful and respectful.
WHAT has Yorkshire done to so offend the Government that it has left this region at the mercy of three Ministers who don’t appear to give a damn?
First James Brokenshire. The Housing Secretary’s refusal to consider the One Yorkshire devolution blueprint is made even more galling by the fact that he’s still to visit this county to meet local leaders over six months after his appointment.
Next Jake Berry. Not only is he singularly ineffective as the Northern Powerhouse Minister, a job, I believe, that was only given him to stop him plotting on behalf of Boris Johnson to whom he supports, but the high streets – the second of his policy briefs – aren’t exactly prospering.
And then there’s Chris Grayling. Daily emails from bemused commuters show the extent to which he is failing the North – and why it speaks volumes about the respective records of Messrs Brokenshire and Berry that they’re now compared to the Transport Secretary.
TALKING of Chris Grayling, commuters in the Pennine communities of Slaithwaite and Marsden are still waiting for their meeting with him over hundreds of cancelled services – and the knock-on effects.
I suggest he shows some urgency. They revealed this week that a TransPennine commuter service from Manchester to Leeds was so overcrowded that a girl fainted on the train and kind-hearted passengers offered first aid because they say the guard couldn’t get through the carriage to assist. “TPE entirely reliant on human goodwill, patience and perseverance,” posted one member of the local campaign group. It shouldn’t have to take a tragedy for Mr Grayling to act.
SHIPLEY MP Philip Davies says the Speaker should not be forced out over Westminster’s bullying and harassment scandal because its origins preceded John Bercow’s election in 2009.
I disagree. Mr Bercow has not done enough to tackle this culture and is clearly compromised by a number of outstanding allegations against the conduct of his own office.
And with Glasgow MP Alison Thewliss highlighting “a pervasive culture of alcohol” at the Palace of Westminster from “receptions at lunchtime serving drinks and people encouraged to hang around in bars while we wait for late-night votes”, why are the bars not shut down?
After all, how many modern workplaces have a subsidised staff bar on the premises? Not many.
SEPARATE reports in the past week about attacks on NHS personnel, and then firefighters, have been followed by the Government saying new laws being introduced will see the maximum sentence for perpetrators rise from six months to a year.
What Ministers don’t say, however, is that this legislation is the result of a Private Members’ Bill introduced by Halifax MP Holly Lynch, a policeman’s daughter, and then taken up by her Labour colleague Chris Bryant as they built a cross-party consensus which convinced the Government to back the so-called ‘Protect the Protectors’ reform. As the Government won’t acknowledge this, I will in the hope that it encourages more bipartisan policy-making.
I’M glad there’s one MP who reads my work. I’m referring to the Parliamentarian who sent a grateful text after backing Definitly Red – the first Yorkshire-trained winner of Wetherby’s prestigious Charlie Hall Chase in 31 years – after reading my preview interview with jockey Danny Cook. They clearly have the right priorities.